A Meal for Many: New Vista High School and The Kitchen Restaurant Host Local Lunch 2011!

June 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Earth Task Force

New Vista High School’s Earth Task Force (or ETF), held a successful (and delicious!) second annual Local Lunch on May 6th, 2011.  This special event, put on for New Vista’s 300 students, had been planned for months and turned out to be great!  ETF collaborated with the staff at The Kitchen Restaurant to create an all-local meal that raised awareness about the importance of eating local and supporting local farms and restaurants.  ETF’s intent was to educate their peers on food miles through a fun and approachable event, and nothing grabs people’s attention like excellent food!

“This is a great way to create community through the sharing of food, to connect people with the food they eat and all the hands and hearts that helped create it, and a great opportunity for high school students to collaborate with local food producers and local chefs,” said Paige Doughty, Earth Task Force Mentor.

In addition to having a locally-grown-and-made meal, students were asked to bring or rent re-usable plates and utensils to further the pro-environmentalism atmosphere of the event.  This year’s meal featured locally raised pork as a main course, beets and goat cheese, wheat-berry salad, and locally roasted and crafted chocolate…Yum!  Everyone went back to class with full bellies and good spirits, wondering what next year’s Local Lunch will be like.

A big thanks to all the producers, growers, and chefs who donated to make this event a success: The Kitchen Restaurant (we couldn’t have done it without you!!!), Farmer John’s Butte Mill Flour Company, Haystack Goat Farm, Cure Organic Farm, Whole Foods, and A Spice of Life.

The Earth Task Force (ETF) is a Cottonwood Institute-sponsored program at New Vista High School in Boulder, CO designed to give students an opportunity to take the lead to implement sustainability initiatives at their school.

This article was written by Kelly Muller and edited by Lindsey Quakenbush.

Cottonwood Institute Represents at National Get Outdoors Day in Denver

On Saturday, June 11th the Cottonwood Institute joined many other outdoor minded groups to be part of the National Get Outdoors Day event in Denver City Park.  It was a beautiful day and thanks to great weather, in combination with the hard work of Get Outdoors Colorado, the event was the most well attended yet.  Thousands of visitors strolled through the park enjoying the entertainment and education throughout the day.

The Cottonwood Institute was in good company including REI, Governor Mark Udall, Jefferson County Open Space, Avid 4 Adventure and Colorado State Parks.  At our booth we provided information about our programming and had a fun game for kids to start thinking about what they would need to pack for a day-hike to be safe and prepared.  We also demonstrated the bow-drill technique for starting fires and drew several interested crowds teaching this unique skill.  It was a great day for people from all over the Denver Metro area to learn about how to prepare for and enjoy the outdoors here in Colorado and see what the Cottonwood Institute has to offer!


Logan School Students Earned Their Marshmallows

June 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Notes From The Field

Although the students from Logan School in Denver were eager to go, it was the teachers that were ready to jump out of their skin from the excitement of the upcoming trip. All 24 of us –  including 19 rambunctious and highly energized 8 and 9 year olds – loaded into our caravan of vehicles and headed to Earth Knack, where we would spend the next three days learning primitive survival skills, while embracing sustainability, adaptability, and nature.

After fours hours of humming tires, the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range finally greeted us with sunshine reflections off snowy peaks, and the adventure began. Once camp was set, we met Robin, the creator and owner of Earth Knack, our temporary home. She led us on a comprehensive and educational tour while discussing sustainability and recycling.  Dinner and marshmallows were our next order of business, and as the stars twinkled silently above us, we settled in for the night.

The sun shone bright the next morning. We ate a hearty breakfast and prepared for a short hike to the Ziggurat.  This unique piece of artwork sits atop a hill towering above the sparsely populated valley symbolizing one man’s vision of piece.  During the hike, we discovered an abundance of wildlife from birds to rabbits to flowers.  Although our stomachs were grumbling for lunch, our laughter and smiles evidenced a successful hike.  After a stimulating game of camouflage and bow drill practice, we began building our debris shelter.  I have never seen a group of kids dedicated so intensely to the task at hand as these young ones were.  In the middle of it all, it started to snow, and their determination did not wane, their smiles did not falter, and their shelter was a work of art on its own accord.

We celebrated our last night together listening to fireside stories, and dining on dessert of birthday cake and marshmallows.  It was a bittersweet moment, but as we backed out of the driveway the next morning, all of us knew the skills we learned and the laughter we shared would remain with us as long as the Sangre de Cristos continue to tower above this vast valley.

Check out the slideshow of our adventures, by clicking here.

Written by April Pishna.

They’re Back! West Denver Prep Students Return to Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield

June 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Notes From The Field, STRIVE Prep

During a rainy weekend in May, the Cottonwood Institute teamed up with students from West Denver Preparatory Charter School and their teacher, Leigh Garrison, for a spring overnight course at Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield. This course concluded the extensive Three Trees and a River Project, in which students participated in a water testing field trip for World Water Monitoring Day, went on an overnight camping trip in the fall, and completed a one-day service project planting cottonwood trees at Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield.

Despite arriving in a downpour of rain that persisted throughout the weekend, students set up their camp outdoors and immediately set to work learning about some of Colorado’s native avian wildlife.  During their time at Chatfield students were given the opportunity to watch banding, a process in which various birds are caught and banded around the ankle so their migration patterns can be tracked in the future.  Students observed the bird banding, and then helped release them once the banding process was complete.  When the students weren’t working with birds they learned some new survival skills and visited the cottonwood saplings they planted a mere three months earlier.

Although the weather prevented students from going on a rafting trip, it did not prevent them from doing anything else.  “They didn’t want to leave by the end of the program, despite the weather,” said Ryan Johns, one of the course instructors who has been working with the students throughout the Three Trees and a River Project.  The students were engaged in the course, and everyone came prepared with the right attitude to handle the tasks at hand and still have fun.  In the end, the students were able to participate in some amazing and exciting activities with birds and shared a unique experience that will stay with them for years to come.

Written by Lindsey Quakenbush and edited by April Pishna.

Gardening Made Simple and 100 Ways to Change the World!

It was a wonderful final quarter with the Community Adventure Program at New Vista High School this spring!  The class joined together to create an action project around gardening and the appreciation of simply grown local food.  We visited Growing Gardens and the Flatirons Neighborhood Farm to glean some local information from amongst the many knowledgeable folks in Boulder.  The class worked hard on the garden transformation:  turning the soil, picking out grubs, planning  and planting beds, building a raised bed, and finally showing off their hard work with garden tours on Exhibition Day!

“I felt proud to be a high school student when we were working in the garden. I think it’s a rare occurrence to see a bunch of high school kids from all different social groups working together to produce food.” Lauren Harper

“As a group our hands reached deeper into the ground, we started planting, started watering, all of us started growing alongside our young plants. There were moments you could really feel us becoming a group…”  AnnaMarie McCorvie

After a great quarter of learning together, we also brainstormed 100 Ways to Change the World! AnnaMarie put it down in writing and this is what they would like to leave us with:


100 Ways to Change the World

Recycle…Join a movement…Start a movement…Have a facebook revolution…March…Protest…Peacefully gather…Become a superhero…Write a book…Build a bike…Build a house…Dig a well…Garden…Plant an indigenous tree…Bike…Go to the farmers market…Write to your congressmen…Blog…Learn about an issue…Educate others…Volunteer…Help a hospital…Cure cancer…Build a windmill…Pick up litter…Clean a river…Compost…Reuse…Reduce waste…Join the Peace Corps…Educate yourself…Graduate…Be a mentor…Be a pen pal…Be an artist…Read…Give to charity…Adopt a child…Use biodiesel…Join a club…Make a friend…Stop and smell the roses…Eat healthy…Pitch an idea…Start a company…Become a doctor… Be passionate…Love thy neighbor…Hug a tree…Live sustainably…. Leave no trace…Visit a national park…Read Shakespeare…Meditate….Practice Yoga…Listen to music…Have an open mind… Have an open heart… Be positive…Vote… Be charitable… Smile… Love yourself…Don’t set off bombs… Save the bees…Eat organic…Hug orphans…Be an ally…Don’t shake a baby… Work with others… Give out free condoms… Don’t use plastic… Be creative… Dance like no one’s watching… Sing like you know the words… Turn the lights off… Take cold showers… Support good organizations… Bring your own grocery bag… Wear sweaters… Open windows… Use public transportation…Play sports… Weed invasive plants… Train your dog… Boycott… Come alive… Use your rights… Sing more… Learn a language… Laugh more… Make your own clothing… Do what you love… Look people in the eye…Use solar panels… Have a green roof… Use a reusable water bottle… Laugh with people… Work hard… Be you

Through Wind, Snow, Sunshine, and Darkness – 4th Quarter CAP Encounters it All!

Spring time is upon us! On a beautiful April weekend, I went along with the 4th quarter CAP class up to the mountains at Calwood for the first weekend overnight. Upon our arrival, the howling wind sent shivers up our spines, but that was only a slight set-back for the weekend that lay ahead. After the tents were pitched, our first activity was a sit spot. What a great way to focus the group and get everyone excited for the weekend!

We spent time hiking up Solitude Point, building debris shelters, and learning survival techniques. Everyone had a great attitude and worked hard as a team to get things done. After a chilly dinner, we gathered in the warming hut to spend time around the fire, giving us a chance to bond as a class and share some laughter. When the sun had set, we returned outside to do a drum stalk under the full moon. At first some students were frightened by the idea of walking in the dark blindfolded, but after a few rounds everyone was trying their best and using all of their senses. We ended the day with a night hike up Solitude to admire the beautiful moon. When we reached the top, we all began to howl at the brilliant light shining down upon us. Before too long we heard a pack of coyotes howling back! It was cool to experience the magic of nature on such a wonderful night.

Our second overnight was much warmer than the first! We had a gorgeous weekend near Taylor Mountain and took advantage of the weather to hike, practice fire, and relax!

An afternoon hike proved quite exciting as the group interacted with maps in a new way. As the afternoon approached, we packed our daypacks and set out for a hike on the Bright Trail. This was an awesome chance for everyone to chat and soak up the sunshine. I loved the feeling of the hike, it was relaxed and everyone was observing their surroundings. Time flew by without anyone noticing! On our way back, we decided to follow the contour lines on a map we had to get back to our campsite. We trekked through the forest for quite a while, doing our best to go the right direction. After a while, we thought we had gotten lost because our campsite was nowhere to be found! By using all of our combined wilderness know-how, we managed to make it back safe and sound. It was a great experience to have the feeling of getting lost, because we got to practice what to do in case we were in a real survival situation.

The group’s fire skills also improved. After a season of fire bans we had a great time exploring different ways of making fire. The single match fires proved to be a great challenge for many students. This trip was also a great opportunity for students to increase their backcountry cooking skills and with our fire, s’mores were in full effect! Everyone had a great time on this final trip of the year and the class really came together, learning not only the skills presented, but gaining a deeper understanding of themselves and each other.

I believe the real magic of these trips is the power of togetherness. It’s my favorite aspect of CAP and is the reason I keep coming back. I think the overnights were a success and we learned a lot. I can’t wait for all the adventures to come!

Check out the fun, by clicking here to view the photo slideshow.

Written by Jo Skuski and Madeline Bachner